Breastfeeding is a topic full of thoughts and emotions for pregnant women. Some women may tear up with joy when dreaming of their future sweetness. Others may feel fear when thinking about how it might hurt or not work out. Some feel anxious when considering the logistics of figuring it all out. Whether you are a mom committed to breastfeeding the first year or willing to try it, you should prepare for some of the challenges in the first month of breastfeeding. If you don’t, you may want to give up before you start and then feel sad and disappointed with your experience. And that is precisely what we don’t want to happen!
10 Tips to Conquer the First Month of Breastfeeding
As a mom who has breastfed for a total of 6 years, I wanted to offer you my 10 best tips for helping mothers of every circumstance survive the first month of breastfeeding and beyond. Because I promise you there is a high chance you can succeed with help and support. And love it!
1. Prepare for the First Month to be Rough
This is probably the most critical advice because if you are not mentally prepared for the challenges of learning the new craft of breastfeeding, which is exactly what it is, you may get discouraged too soon! So here’s what you need to know.
In the beginning, you will likely be exhausted. Your nipples will probably hurt. You may be engorged or not producing much milk. It may feel like you are breastfeeding all of the time. You may start panicking that your baby is crying because they are hungry (instead of realizing they might just be crying because you are still learning their cues!). You name it, and it *could* happen. Or it may go really well!
But regardless, letting the challenges that come with the first month of breastfeeding influence your decision for the entire year (or the timeframe you aim to breastfeed) is silly. My nipples hurt the worst with my third son during his first two weeks of life after having already breastfed two other children with no pain. I knew the pain was my body readjusting and getting him to learn to latch well. So don’t panic. Things get easier! Really.
2. Set a Time Frame
Women interested in breastfeeding should commit to sticking with it for a certain amount of time and not quitting until they reach their goal. I recommend sticking with it for at least three months before you say you cannot overcome your challenges. Many, many, many factors come together to create a positive breastfeeding experience. And until you have given them each due time to regulate, you may be quitting well before you have hit the sweet spot.
3. Create a Support Network
It is crucial to surround yourself with a support system in the beginning. Befriend other moms who are breastfeeding for camaraderie. Connect with a certified lactation consultant for help. Join La Leche League for encouragement and ideas. Join Facebook breastfeeding groups for instant answers to questions! It would be best if you had a place where you could ask questions and talk to others in your shoes. You may speak to one person with no helpful suggestions for your issue and another who knows exactly what you need to improve. So remember, connect, and get support! It is key.
4. Eat and Drink . . . A LOT
No, I’m not talking about boozing it up. But I AM suggesting you guzzle as much water as possible and keep up your calorie intake because you can’t produce milk or have the energy you need without calories in your system. Simple but profound! And many women overlook the power of water. So don’t. Guzzle, guzzle, guzzle!
5. Understand Supply Variance
You need to know your supply will naturally ebb and flow. A period will make many women’s supply drop. Stress, sleep, and calories can also affect supply. While very few women cannot actually produce enough milk to breastfeed a baby, many women quit because they fear they aren’t producing enough, but they are.1 If your supply is low, look into other factors that may be causing it to drop. And begin researching what you can do to boost it! Keep reading for advice below.
6. Study up on Ways to Boost Supply
There are many ways to boost your supply. These include eating certain foods like oatmeal, taking certain natural supplements like Fenugreek, products to help increase supply, taking prescription medicine from your doctor, or pumping after feedings (on both sides), which naturally tells your body to produce more milk. The trick with these methods is to research and try various things! Different things work for different mothers. I recommend starting with the most popular ways to boost supply and then going from there!
- 5 Lactation Smoothie Recipes
- Homemade Lactation Cookies Recipe
- 5 One-Handed Lactation Snacks to Boost Milk Supply
7. Ditch the Pacifier (At the Start)
For babies struggling with latching or eating well, I recommend getting rid of the pacifier for the first month when trying to establish a good latch. The best thing for them to suck on is you. It boosts supply, fattens them up, and helps them figure it out. This may be unnecessary if they are naturally a great eater and you are producing like crazy. But for those struggling to eat well, sucking can tire them out and leave them less than motivated to eat from you. This can make nursing take forever! And leave you feeling burnt out.
8. Find What Clothing and Scenario Makes You Feel Most Comfortable Nursing
While no woman should feel embarrassed to nurse and feed their baby, different women are comfortable with different things. Some women do not feel comfortable nursing in public, and some do. Some people want to use a cover, and some do not. While I feel comfortable nursing in public, I do not feel comfortable without using a cover (a large one). Some women love nursing tanks, nursing bras, or products like UnderCover Mama’s nursing tees that attach to any bra to make you feel covered no matter what you wear. But most importantly, find what works for you because a tense mama has trouble letting down their milk, so relax and enjoy it! Check out more of our breastfeeding essentials here.
9. Pump at the Start
Whether your supply is strong or not, I highly recommend that moms start pumping within the first month of breastfeeding. The beginning of breastfeeding is when your body is likely to produce the most milk, and you can quickly build up a base of frozen milk. That way, if things get challenging when you return to work (or need to go out of town), you have a stress-free stockpile at your disposal! And if your supply is low, it is the best way to build it up. I watched my sister go from producing less than an ounce to four ounces just from pumping after feedings!
10. Do Not Fear Pumping At Work
If you must return to work within the first month of breastfeeding, prepare to pump at work now. Many women are made to feel guilty or rushed for pumping at work or let the stress of pumping deter them from continuing to breastfeed once they return to work! Do not fall into this category! The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, includes a Fair Labor Standards section, which requires an employer to provide reasonable time for a breastfeeding mother to express breast milk for her child for the first year of their life in a place other than a bathroom. This law is implemented in 49 states and the District of Columbia. So, most likely, your pumping rights at work are protected. Click HERE for more details.
Cheers to making breastfeeding work for you!